Last week a mid-sized Canadian company that sold proprietary content management systems went bust. Someone I know had been working with them on a new website for the past six months, and it was set to launch next week.
“Oh, no problem” I thought. “You can just hire a few newly-unemployed coders who are familiar with the code to finish off the job for you.” Of course, that is not the case, as I quickly realized I was thinking in terms of open source projects. The code in this case proprietary, and belongs to the now-defunct company’s creditors. No one else can touch it. When you don’t use open source software and something bad happens to your vendor, you’re stuck. And I can guarantee that as more and more organizations start using open source software for content management systems, more and more of these companies that have created proprietary CMSes will drop the business. And their clients will be out of luck.
It also twigs to a few conversations I have heard in the past few weeks. Several people made the (obvious) prediction that the open source tools we use today (in this case, Drupal) will not be the preferred tools of tomorrow. I guess that because I have followed Drupal for years, and have seen it improve so much, I can’t easily conceive of what will replace it. But like any tech project, from Netscape to Friendster to Google, these projects have a limited time at the top of the heap, and eventually they get replaced. Very buddhist, I suppose.